Monday, February 26, 2018

An artful blending of two musical genres

Jazz and classical music rarely intersect. But they make interesting bedfellows when brought together by two musicians who are well at ease in both fields.

Dick Hyman and Ken Peplowski
Such was the case on Saturday, February 24 when pianist Dick Hyman and reed player Ken Peplowski joined forces with a  47-member orchestra conducted by Yakov Bergman. The "Symphony of Broadway" program at the Venice (FL) Performing Arts Center featured a wide variety of band formats..

Hyman, who turns 91 on March 8, has been a prolific pianist, organist, composer, arranger, bandleader, composer of film scores and orchestral works in his long and distinguished career. He was honored last April as a National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master.

Peplowski, best known as a proponent of swinging mainstream jazz, also delves into the classical world on occasion, and has been a frequent collaborator with Hyman for many years in many contexts.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

More moments to savor from The Jazz Cruise's 2018 edition

From late morning to early the next morning, the music was varied - and a constant - on the 2018 edition of The Jazz Cruise, aboard the M/S Celebrity Summit on its February 3-10 sailing out of Fort Lauderdale.

It's Mardi Gras time
Here are more musical moments, captured visually. The cruise, for the first time, made a 27-hoour stop in New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz. This year, the Crescent City is celebrating its 300th birthday.

Christof Luty
James Morrison and Eric Marienthal
David Alvarez III
Bobby Floyd, Wycliffe Gordon
Emmet Cohen, Veronica Swift
Troy Roberts, Joey DeFrancesco

Emmet Cohen
Lewis Nash
The Clayton Brothers, Jeff and John
Ameen Saleem

The Jeff Hamilton Trio with Tamir Hendelman & Christof Luty

Graham Dechter, Ernie Adams, Gary Smulyan

Trio Da Paz

Emmet Cohen, Veronica Swift, Ann Hampton Callaway

Renee Rosnes

Musical Director Shelly Berg
Benny Green

John Pizzarelli, Ken Peplowski

Shelly Berg, David Finck

Konrad Paszkudzki, Nicki Parrott

Rickey Woodard, Martin Wind, Graham Dechter up close
Joe LaBarbera, Jeff Hamilton & Ernie Adams honoring Lewis Nash
The Rendezvous Lounge often was standing room only, including Benny Green's performances

The Cookers

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Veronica Swift's jazz DNA serves her well

The Charlotte County Jazz Society got to catch a rising star on Monday, February 12, and she made a mighty impression.

Fresh off a week-long series of performances aboard The Jazz Cruise out of Fort Lauderdale, singer Veronica Swift quickly showed she's the real deal in a concert with tenor saxophonist Jeff Rupert's very fine quartet. The band included pianist Richard Drexler, bassist Ben Kramer and Marty Morell, who was late pianist Bill Evans' longest-serving drummer. (Rupert, Drexler and Morell are on the University of Central Florida jazz faculty.)

Swift, the 23-year-old daughter of late bebop pianist Hod O'Brien and singer Stephanie Nakasian, has a swinging presence. It is backed  by her abilities to explore a wide range of tunes, write and deliver vocalese (lyrics written to classic jazz solos), scat tastefully and emulate instrumental sounds that often make her one more horn player in the band.

She is making a rapid rise on the national jazz scene on the heels of her second-place performance in the 2015 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition and her December 2016 graduation from the University of Miami's Frost School of Music. She's now based in New York City, gigs regularly in Manhattan and tours with trumpeter Chris Botti.

On this evening, Swift and the quartet explored a half-dozen tunes from their 2017 CD, Let's Sail Away, plus a few other gems with their high-energy, bop-infused swing.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Jazz Cruise featured many musical treats - and a tricentenary visit

The 2018 edition of The Jazz Cruise was a seven-day floating music marathon. Most days, the music ping-ponged through as many as six large and more intimate venues, and stretched from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. It is not for the musically faint of heart.

This was my 10th jazz-related cruise, but my first aboard The Jazz Cruise, which has been an annual event since 2001. My previous jazz-related voyage was aboard the QE2, which included a Newport Jazz Festival stopover during its 1996 sailing.

Kurt Elling, John Pizzarelli, Houston Person, Tom Kennedy
There were many treats this time out aboard the M/S Celebrity Summit for its roughly 2,000 passengers and about 100 performing musicians. Michael Lazaroff's St. Louis-based Entertainment Cruise Productions directs all shipboard music for these cruises, which means it was 100% jazz - with none of the ship-provided entertainment and shows associated with most cruises.